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ASK JOURNEYS: Honouring of motherhood goes way back

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Flowers help make the day for mothers around the world.


Flowers help make the day for mothers around the world. Photo Store

Happy Mother's Day, all!

As your children and spouses recognize you tomorrow for the dedication and sacrifices you make to create stronger families, you might also offer some thanks and recognition to Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.

Given the fact the day is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, and the weeks leading into it can rival holiday shopping, I often surmised the day was a creation of the retail and restaurant associations of America.

But in fact the day was established only with the best of intentions.

Seeing the carnage of the U.S. Civil War, Julia Ward Howe chagrined at how many sons were dying on both sides. She became an activist who campaigned for a Mother's Day of Peace in 1870.

Some decades later it would be Anna Jarvis who was able to establish an official Mother's Day in her local church in recognition of her mother, who had been a pioneer activist around public-health issues.

Perhaps it is because of the activist history of the event that many countries have chosen to celebrate an official International Day of Women, instead of Mother's Day as it evolved in North America and other countries.

Using the proclamation of Howe as a foundation, Jarvis was able to see the first official Mother's Day recognized in 1908.

By the time she died in 1948, Mother's Day would be celebrated in over 40 countries around the world, even as she expressed concern about the commercialization of the event.

And while the celebrated foundation may arise out of these specific people and events, the honouring of motherhood goes far back in history.

In Britain, a day known as Mothering Sunday was created in the 1600s to give servants and apprentices one day in the year when they were granted time to visit their families.

Thousands of years ago, festivals celebrated goddesses like the Isis in Egypt, Hilaria in the Roman Empire and both Cybele and Rhea in Greece.

While most of the modern celebrations do take place around the month of May, by timing their travels around the world properly, mothers can be honoured several times more during other times of the year.

Visit Thailand on Aug. 18 when Mother's Day is celebrated to coincide with the birthday of Queen Mom Rajawongse Sirkit Kitiyakara, regarded as the mother of all peoples of Thai origin.

Greece may not be as warm in February but their unrelated version of Mother's Day takes place on the second day of that month as an Orthodox religious holiday known as Mothering Sunday.

A Mother Pilgrimage fortnight is celebrated as a part of a Hindu tradition on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh, which can be in April or May. This celebration, like others, goes back several centuries before it was even considered in North America and other countries that have followed the current definitions of the day.

Its reasons for celebration have also varied from country to country.

After the First World War, with so many thousands killed during the period, in an effort to encourage repopulation, special Mother's Day recognition was given to those who had four or more children.

If you book a flight soon you can arrive in Sweden for the last Sunday of this month, where Mother's Day celebrations are mostly dedicated to charity. Organizations like the Red Cross sell small plastic flowers with the monies collected being dedicated to mothers in the country who are poor and impoverished.

In Argentina, the home of the new Catholic Pope, Mother's Day takes place on the third Sunday in October.

It started as a liturgical celebration for the Virgin Mary on Oct. 11 and then was moved after the Second Vatican Council to a Virgin Mary festivity on Jan. 1.

But it was commercialism that eventual took control of the day when merchants in the country pleaded, and succeeded, in having it moved to the third Sunday of October to help drive sales in the months before Christmas.

Wherever it is celebrated, it is, and should be, a special day of appreciation for those women in our lives who make the decision to nurture and help shape our children to face and take on the responsibilities of an ever-evolving universe.

Every Mother's Day there is a decided aura of happiness that permeates the air as the youngest get excited about recognizing their moms and families experience the warmth of spring and each other.

To those who wish to recognize the activist history of the occasion, the following is the actual Mother's Day proclamation by Julie Ward Howe, which resides in the United States Library of Congress today.

"Arise then...women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts!

Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,

For caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country,

Will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure Supercentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at or read Ron's travel blog at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 D2

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